Negative reviews happen - there, we said it! But they're really not the end of the World, promise. In fact, often the most important thing is not the negative review itself, but the way in which a company deals with that review. Today, we're going to show you how to handle negative reviews the professional way. Get it right, and you might even be able to turn that positive into a negative!
Recently received a negative review and feel like the walls are caving in?
Mistakes are a part of life. In fact, they're a part of being human! We all slip up from time to time and people can be more understanding towards negative reviews than you think - especially if you handle them correctly. There are actually a surprising amount of benefits of negative reviews too. They can do numerous things including improving your brand trust, customer service and even customer satisfaction in the future, so try not to see them as the enemy.
Stop the stress and try to remember:
1: Negative reviews do not define you!
2: What's written in the reviews isn't what matters - your response is what does.
What to do when you receieve a negative review
1. Don't take it personally.
It's a negative review, about your business - the one you've worked your fingers to the bone building up - and it somehow feels like a personal insult.
You should never take a bad review personally, even when it seems personal! Consider that the customer might have been having a bad day when they wrote it, or perhaps, that they could even be right. Taking negative feedback to heart often leads to anger which is likely to lead to a response from you that you may later regret. Which leads us on to....
2. Take a minute
Whilst it may seem easy for us to say 'it's just a negative review', we really do get it. Whether you’re new to this game or a well-seasoned veteran, negative reviews can have a surprisingly powerful effect on your state of mind.
That's why it's so important to always, always take a moment to breathe before dealing with negative reviews. We've all been there in the past when someone has said something out of turn to us and we've had to bite our tongue or calm down before we respond. Well, negative reviews should be treated in exactly the same way.
Whatever's been said in the review, don't respond impulsively. Take a minute, breathe, and come back a little later with a clear head.
3. Put yourself in your customer's shoes
Although there are some exceptions, negative reviews are rarely left without good reason and some are actually meant in good-jest. 44% of women and 32% of men say when they leave a negative review, it's to help the company improve a product/service/policy - they're really not the enemy! When handling feedback, it's essential to see the problem from your customer's point of view so you can respond and resolve appropriately.
Don't just see their anger or frustration - read into the language used and try and identify where things went wrong.
This process will help you really understand the problem and be more empathetic, so that when it does come to responding to those negative reviews, you'll be able to do so in the most professional and personable way possible.
4. Do some research
Once you've fully identified the problem the customer had, it's time to get researching. If it was an issue with customer service, you may want to pull up any relevant correspondence. If it was a customer journey issue, try and replicate it yourself to identify the exact bump in the road. If it was a delivery issue, contact your courier for an explanation.
Everything you gather will not only help you respond to negative customer reviews in a really comprehensive way but also provide the unhappy customer with a solution - turning that negative into a positive.
5. Reply to negative reviews
When it comes to actually dealing with your negative reviews, one of the first questions you may be asking yourself is "should I even bother to reply?" The answer to that is a resounding 'yes'. Replying to customer reviews is very important indeed - 61% of people say that just getting a response to their complaint is reward enough. After all, customer's like to know they're valued and one way of reassuring them is to make every one of their problems, your problem.
That being said, there is a sweet spot - revenue may decrease if a business starts responding to more than 40% of its reviews so it's important to be selective when replying to reviews. Don't entertain the fakes or respond for responding's sake. It's the negative ones you want to concentrate on.
You can jump to exactly how to reply to negative reviews here.
6. Publicise the review & response
Publicising negative reviews is scary, granted, but it is essential if you want to be completely transparent with your customers. Reviews - both of the positive and negative kind - can build enormous amounts of trust, but only if you allow them to.
If you've already contacted the customer privately and the problem has been resolved, you can now go ahead and publish a streamlined response. Include the main points raised, apologise, be personal, thank them for their feedback, and apologise again.
The goal here is to showcase that you've not only acknowledged but really understood the customer's problem and done all you can to resolve it.
7. Ask them to modify their review
Depending on how the exchange went with the customer in question, you may be able to encourage them to modify their negative review and turn it - quite literally - into a positive.
This is not something we'd recommend doing religiously - it should definitely be on a case-by-case basis and always carried out in private.
If the conversation went well and the customer was pleased with your response and solution, they may be more than happy to update their review, or, if nothing else, edit it to include the customer service they received in resolving their issue.
8. Document, feedback & improve
Reviews.io strongly believe that one of the main benefits of reviews is how much they can help businesses to improve. Feedback is essential to continuous improvements and bringing your customers the best you can possibly offer.
The last step in handling negative reviews successfully is to take what you've learnt, document it, relay it to the necessary teams, making sure change is implemented where necessary. Recording each and every one of your negative reviews will help you to recognise patterns and identify key areas of improvement. There's no point putting in all that work resolving negative reviews to not learn from them. Take something from every review and make sure mistakes aren't repeated.
Feeding back reviews to the higher powers is essential, as this is what will facilitate change. Web developers may have no idea about a user experience problem that causes negative reviews unless you tell them. The key here is communication.
When the problem has been relayed, your last job is to ensure change - where necessary - is implemented to prevent reoccurring issues.
9. Encourage your customers to leave reviews
It's pretty widely accepted that most of your happy customers won't tell anyone about their experience without being prompted, while any unhappy customers are likely to actively tell their friends, and perhaps everyone else online too.
This is why it's important to implement and maintain a Customer Review Strategy for your business that involves active collection, because the vast majority of your customers will write a positive review for you if prompted to do so.
It's also important to try and maintain a consistent reputation across multiple review platforms, whether they be a Google-licensed third party platform such as Reviews.io, or a social media platform like Facebook.
How to reply to negative reviews
The most important thing when dealing with negative reviews is getting your reply spot on. Here's how to do that in x simple steps.
1. Say thank you
If they didn't tell you, how would you know? Starting with a simple "Thank you for your review" acknowledges that you appreciate constructive feedback and also demonstrates you're prepared to admit to your mistakes - you don't take the high road.
Sorry can go a long way. However blunt or angry negative reviews may seem, it's important to remember that your customers are not the enemy and are unlikely to have left you a negative review for no reason at all.
Whatever their feedback and whether you agree with it or not, you should apologise for the upset caused. Do this sincerely and understandingly as a way of winning your disgruntled customer over before you take any steps towards tackling the issue at hand.
3. Personalise your review responses
This is the rule that is most frequently broken. Nothing frustrates a customer or potential customer more than reading a canned, irrelevant response.
Instead of getting a response out as quickly as possible, take some time to fully understand the customer's issue. This may involve speaking to team members in other departments and even test-running the issue yourself to find the bumps in the road. In your response, reply back to the specifics in the initial review and, using your findings, try to explain the reason for the issue. All of this will help to calm a frustrated reviewer.
4. Offer a solution
In an ideal world, you'd provide every negative reviewer with a solution to there problem. Whilst not always possible, it should be a rule you try to stick to.
A solution can be in the form of a refund or return or perhaps just some advice about the product/service that's caused the problem.
By providing a solution, you are literally, turning the positive into a negative which will save relationships and showcase great customer service too.
5. Reiterate your company ethos
Once you've thanked, apologised and done your best to solve the problem at the heart of the negative review, it's a good idea to reiterate your business' vision to show the customer the mishap wasn't up to your usual standards.
If you are a fashion e-commerce retailer, your goal might be to provide the highest quality products at the lowest price all while having efficient delivery. In this case, you might respond to a complaint about delivery similarly to the example below:
"Dear Mr Taylor, I was disappointed to hear that you had not received your parcel on the delivery day given when you placed your order. I have followed up with our courier company and they have confirmed that the delivery did not take place due to an unforeseen driver problem. When we started "A Fashion Website" our goal was always to offer exceptional delivery and price. Unfortunately, in this instance, we have failed to meet our high standards. We will be having further discussions with our courier partner on how we can make sure this type of problem does not happen in the future."
6. Offer a follow-up
Before you sign off, reiterate the importance of customer satisfaction to your business by offering to discuss the matter further. Something along the lines of "I have emailed you my contact details if you would like to discuss this matter further." This shows your door is always open and that when customers choose to shop with you, no problem goes unresolved.
7. Avoid the 'C' word
The final rule on our list is more of a don't than a do. In general, compensation shouldn't be mentioned in any review response. Mentioning that 'C' word usually opens the floodgates around trust and bribery. It could also set this as a standard procedure for your company, which is not what you want.
If you feel compelled to offer compensation, make sure you do this via a private email or call.
Negative review response template
Whilst we don't advocate using exact copied templates for review responses, to get started, they can be useful. Feel free to use the review response template above as a guide to help you ace all those replies! Be sure to customise it as much as you can to make it personal and maximise its effectiveness. It's always a good idea to check out some review response examples too before you start writing any of your own.
On the back of your research, you should now have everything you need to respond to your negative review in the best way possible. This stage is key as 61% of people say that just getting a response to their complaint is reward enough.
When responding, it's essential to be both professional and relatable. The wrong response could cause even more anger and frustration - continuing the cycle of negativity - whilst the right could completely turn things around for the unsatisfied customer and even your reputation. Remember that each of your customers, satisfied or not, is a person. Each problem is unique and deserves some time and attention. For this reason, we strongly discourage the use of automated review responses.
For negative reviews, it's worth considering replying privately. This facilitates more conversation, and will also enable disgruntled customers to blow off some steam - if necessary - without the whole World being witness.
Negative reviews are part and parcel of doing business both online and offline. Even the world’s best-run businesses will do something wrong at some point, which may lead to a customer leaving an unhappy review.
But negative reviews are not the end of the World and should not be shied away from. Savvy consumers rarely trust a business that has hundreds of straight 5-star reviews - 68% of consumers actually trust reviews more when they see both positive and negative reviews!
Handled well, they can actually be your friend, helping you to learn more about your current customers and business offerings and do better in the future. Here's to turning positives into negatives - after all flowers can't grow without the rain!